How to ‘minimise’ the risk of hydrangea ‘transplant shock’ – ‘damage to roots prove fatal’

Alan Titchmarsh shows off his hydrangeas

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Hydrangeas cope well with most soil types, can be grown in full sun or partial shade, and require little maintenance. Period Living’s gardening expert Leigh Clapp, said: “No longer seen as old-fashioned, hydrangeas are again championed and valued for their use in our gardens, and are a clear favourite for their sheer variety, reliability and blowsy blooms. Grown in sun or semi-shade, either on their own, in the border or as an informal hedge, their voluptuous, long-lasting blooms provide loads of colour in shades of pink, blue, purple and white, as well as creamy white and astringent greens.”

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Those who feel their hydrangea isn’t thriving in its current spot, or would like to move it to a more prominent area of the garden, then transplanting it is the best option. 

However, gardeners need to be aware that transplant shock is a common side effect of moving plants. 

The telltale signs are wilting and falling leaves, and hydrangeas not blooming. 

In severe cases, your plant may not recover.

Therefore, Lucy Searle, Editor in Chief of Homes & Gardens, advised: “You can minimise the risk of hydrangea transplant shock by digging up as much of the root ball and surrounding soil as possible. 

“Too much damage to the roots can prove fatal.

“Although knowing how to prune hydrangeas is vital, gardeners must avoid pruning it at this stage as it could place too much stress on the plant.”

Make sure to keep your hydrangea well watered until it settles into its new spot. 

Once it starts to flower, gardeners can be confident that the hydrangea has transplanted well.

When moving and replanting hydrangeas, the first thing you need to consider is whether the new spot offers the right conditions for your plant.

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Matthew Pottage, curator at RHS Wisley said: “Hydrangeas like reliable moisture in the summer, so don’t plant them in a dry position.”

Avoid a south-facing spot, and ensure there is some protection from frosts and shade from the blazing afternoon sun.

Some species of hydrangea tolerate full sun, but if yours is more sensitive, it will become stressed by drought in the summer.

Once you have chosen a good new spot, it’s important to get the ground ready before digging up the plant.

Leigh advised: “In light soil, add in some organic matter at planting to help with moisture.”

Remove any large stones from the hole, and consider adding a sprinkling of mycorrhizal fungi to help the roots to establish, say the experts.

If the plant is large, gardeners may need to gently tie around its branches to make it more manageable to handle. 

Make sure you dig up as much of the root ball as possible.

Carefully relocate to its new spot – avoiding planting the hydrangea deeper than its previous location – and backfill with soil.

Water in well and mulch to add extra nutrients, keep in moisture and help suppress weeds.

Those moving the hydrangea during cooler, wetter weather, they won’t need to water often. 

However, in warmer weather, do not let the soil dry out, and water regularly until established.

If necessary gardeners can transplant hydrangeas in July, but it is not the best time of year to do it, as you’ll risk losing the plant.

If you must move your hydrangea in July, then make sure it’s not during a particularly hot spell.

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